Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Thursday he might consider recusing himself from a Department of Justice investigation into possible connections between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Russian government, but criticized reports that he had spoken with Russia’s ambassador last year before the election.
The Washington Post first reported Wednesday that Sessions had spoken twice with Russian officials last year, including a meeting in the then-senator’s office last September with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions’s spokeswoman acknowledged that conversation occurred, but the attorney general said Thursday they did not involve any discussion of Trump’s campaign, for which he was a prominent surrogate.
"I have not met with any Russians at any time to discuss any political campaign," Sessions told NBC News. “Those remarks are unbelievable to me and are false. And I don't have anything else to say about that."
Sessions also told NBC, when asked if he would recuse himself from a DOJ investigation, that he might be open to the possibility.
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“Well I’ve said that whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. No doubt about that,” Sessions told NBC News.
Prominent Democrats and Republicans, including Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House oversight committee chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), have also called on Sessions to recuse himself, though Sessions has brushed aside previous calls to do so.
The Justice Department and the FBI have been conducting investigations on possible Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election and any connections to Trump’s campaign, and the New York Times reported Thursday that Obama White House officials tried to spread information about Russian meddling across the government before Trump took office.
Sessions had not disclosed the conversations with Russian officials during his confirmation hearing for Attorney General. When asked by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) at the time about how he would respond as Attorney General to evidence of Trump campaign ties to the Russian government, Sessions said he was “not aware of any of those activities” and denied that he had communicated with them personally.
“I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I did not have communications with the Russians,” he added.
Spokeswoman Sarah Isgur told NBC News that “there was absolutely nothing misleading about his answer,” saying the question was focused on “communications between Russia and the Trump campaign” and not Sessions’ capacity as a senator.